Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nebula Award Nominee: "Going Deep"

Going Deep
James Patrick Kelly
Asimov’s: June 2009
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Short Story

I get the feeling that the average James Patrick Kelly story is a perfectly serviceable, no frills, science fiction tale which doesn’t call attention to itself. It doesn’t stand out from the crowd, except that it is much better than merely competent, but never great. The story will seem simple and easy, though thousands of lesser writers would be well served to emulate the craft of James Patrick Kelly.

That’s what I’m getting here from “Going Deep”, the story of a child in the twenty second century cloned from a “spacer” woman on a long flight. Much of the story is set in the mundane aspects of her life as she struggles against knowing that her mother / clone is returning and the expectations that this causes. Mariska is coming of legal age (13, though she comes across as somewhat older and more mature).

Readers learn a bit about this Lunar society, a hint of the technological advances, and not much about the wider world. “Going Deep” is fairly tightly contained on Mariska. Readers will likely wish Kelly was telling more about the wider setting, but he seldom does.

“Going Deep” is a small, quiet, competent story that will excite nobody, not even in the sense of wanting to share “Going Deep” with others. There is nothing wrong with this story, but it doesn’t rise above mere technical skill on the prose level.

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